Marketing Localization & Translation
When Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market they set about using their well-known tag line "Finger-lickin' good". — Bad move; their translator provided a literal translation that changed "Finger lickin' good" to "Eat your fingers off".
Willi Brandt, the former chancellor of West Germany, was once quoted as saying: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying from you, dannmüssenSie Deutsch sprechen.” Although this quotation provides a useful broad framework for the language side of selling to foreign language speakers, it only tells a fraction of the story when it comes to marketing effectively in foreign language markets.
Of course, marketing localization is a must if you are serious about maximizing your international revenue. With almost 20% of the world’s population speaking Chinese (over 1.3 billion people), it is paramount that companies engage fruitfully with marketing localization in Chinese in order to speak to customers on the local language level, and therefore drive revenue.
Truly localized translations require an understanding of both the original language and culture, as well as the target language and culture.
The purpose of ads and other marketing material is to spark customer interest, stimulate a desire to explore the product or service, and drive the decision to buy.
Accomplishing all that requires understanding the target audience, not only its language, but also its nature, culture and mentality.
So, what should companies be mindful of when considering marketing localization for foreign language markets? Here are three tips:
Marketing localization cannot be seen as purely translation work.
Sending your translation vendor the source text is a good start, but it is more constructive to draw up a creative brief for linguists, so that they understand the philosophy of your campaign, and understand how this can be best communicated in the relevant target market. Make it absolutely clear how you would like your company’s style and tone to be projected. As a general rule, you should be looking for a team with a pool of bilingual copywriters, rather than assuming that purely technical translators can do the job.
* Start with the adaptation of taglines across languages and take it from there…
If your marketing campaign makes use of taglines, it would make most sense to have these adapted into the local language at the beginning. Linguists should offer you a cultural commentary explaining why they have chosen a particular tagline. Once this has been selected, it makes it far easier to enforce this across accompanying marketing collateral i.e. datasheets, white papers etc.
Pay attention to details!
Believe it or not, imagery and colors’ play a significant role when marketing in foreign language markets. Whereas in China, the color red is associated with good luck and celebrations, in Russia it is associated with Bolsheviks and Communism, and in South Africa it is the color of mourning. Make sure that any material released into foreign language markets pays attention to subtle details such as these.